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VERDUN SCHOOL

New Norway, Near

Other Names:
New Berlin School

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Verdun School is a simple one-storey wood frame building built in 1902, with an addition and attached teacherage built in 1915, on 0.81 hectares of land in the rural district of New Norway.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Verdun School lies in its association with the experience of a German settlement west of Duhamel and as an excellent representation of the one-room schoolhouses of rural Alberta.

German immigrants arrived in the area from the eastern United States in the 1890s, and a school for grades one to eight was built in 1902. Eventually the growth of the community required the construction of an addition and a teacherage in 1915. The school was originally named the New Berlin School but was renamed the Verdun School in 1918 because of public hostility towards Germany during World War One. The Verdun School offered classes until 1952, and was also used as a Community Hall and Church.

The Verdun School is one of the oldest one-room schoolhouses historically so important to rural Alberta, and possesses a high degree of architectural integrity.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des 1969)



Character-Defining Elements
The heritage value of the Verdun School is embodied in such character-defining elements as:
- form, scale and massing;
- wood clapboard siding;
- medium pitch gable roof;
- corner boards, frieze boards and finished verges;
- fenestration pattern including the two-over-two single-hung windows;
- interior layout comprised of the classroom, vestibule, and teacherage;
- two original wood-fired stoves in classroom and teacherage;
- interior finishes and millwork, including wainscoting, wood floors, and lath-and-plaster walls and ceilings.



Location



Street Address:
Community: New Norway, Near
Boundaries: Portion of the south half of Section 2, Township 46, Range 22, West of the Fourth Meridian.
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
4
22
22
46
46
2
2
2 (ptn.)
3 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel

Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
52.931176 -113.087719 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2000/10/26

Historical Information

Built: 1902 To 1902
Significant Date(s) 1902 To 1952
Theme(s) Peopling the Land : Migration and Immigration
Peopling the Land : Settlement
Historic Function(s): Education : One-Room School
Current Function(s):
Architect:
Builder:
Context: HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE

Before the completion of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway in 1891, travellers between Edmonton and Calgary usually crossed the Battle River at a spot near the present village of Duhamel. In 1880, several members of the Louboucan family chose to settle there, and, in 1893, a post office was opened and named after Father Joseph Duhamel who had ministered in the area several years earlier. The C and E Railway brought more settlers to the district, as did the Canadian Northern Railway after it passed south through Duhamel and New Norway in 1911.

Many of the first settlers to this area were Norwegian, particularly to the northeast of Duhamel. There were also a number of French, many of them descendants of the first French and Metis settlers. West of Duhamel, there was also a pocket of German immigrants, most recently arrived from the eastern United States. As a result, when a petition was granted for a school district in the area in 1902, the name chosen by the petitioners was New Berlin. That fall, with volunteer help, Mr. H. Logeman undertook the construction of a wood frame school 5 km west of Duhamel, where children from the district could be taught grades one to eight. The first teacher was Mabel Chandler. Among the first pupils were children with such names as Clausen, Pehrson, Humbke, Ringman, Keeler, Wattie, Petrick, Alm, Hladik, Reister, Asp, Eikerman, Vold, Schreifles and Vanouk.

By 1915, the population of the district had grown to the extent that an addition was required for the school. A teacherage was also built at about this time, and later attached to the school building. In 1916, School District, #578 was included as part of Local Improvement District #458, which was headquartered in Wetaskiwin. According to local history, "while the people in the eastern portion of the School District maintained their interest in Duhamel," the population of which was mainly Norwegian with some French, "many of those resident in the western portions found their interests centred about the larger Wetaskiwin community to the west," which contained a strong German element. Interestingly, the first 11 teachers were all people with British names. The next eight teachers were all from the community, and mostly of German descent. They were, in order, Lilla Gaetz, Erna Humbke, Erna Kuring, Elsie Eikerman, Margaret Trautman, Mrs. L.Anderson, Elsie Humbke and Mrs. O. Hladik. Following this, English and German names are interspersed.

In 1918 the name of the school was changed from New Berlin to Verdun in 1918 based upon a local petition. The exact reasons for this change are unknown but probably reflect a combination of Canadian patriotism and hostility towards Germany as Canada's enemy during World War I. Despite the ethnic background of many area settlers, this change does not seem to have aroused any opposition, even though Verdun in France was the scene of a cataclysmic battle in which many Canadians died fighting Germans.

The Verdun School District continued to offer instruction in grades one to eight (and occasionally grade nine to the odd correspondent student) until 1952, when the S.D. was transferred to the Camrose School Division, and the children bussed elsewhere. The school building however has survived, becoming one of the oldest one room rural schools in Alberta.

The historical significance of the Verdun School lies in its association with the small pocket of German immigrants to the area west of Duhamel during the 1890's. Its change in name is also significant in that it is indicative of local hostility towards Germany during World War I and also of the lack of local German support (at least public) for Germany's cause at the time.

ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE

The one-room Verdun School was built in 1902, with an enlargement of the classroom taking place in 1915 and the addition of a teacherage around the same time. The school is a wood frame building with a medium pitch gable roof. Clapboard siding, corner boards, frieze boards and finished verges characterize the exterior of both parts of the building. Two over two double hung windows are found on three sides of the building, with seven in a row being ranged along the west elevation. There is a vestibule inside the south (front) entrance. A second south-facing entrance leads directly into the teacherage portion of the building. Two original wood-fired stoves remain: a large furnace with heat shield in the classroom, and a smaller kitchen type stove in the teacherage. The design of the Verdun School, though simple, is interesting in that it illustrates many of the ideas then current about appropriate environments for learning. It is an early example of a building type which was once commonplace in Alberta but which, today, is increasingly rare.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0777
Designation File: Des. 1969
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 46798
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1969)
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